Match Coverage

Predicted Man City XI vs. Liverpool: Return to four at the back as Kompany misses out

Manchester City will face a massive challenge when Liverpool visit the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Despite picking up seven points from three games, manager Pep Guardiola cannot be too content with recent performances: the victories over Brighton and Bournemouth were not entirely convincing despite dominating position, and a point against Everton was salvaged by a late Raheem Sterling equaliser.

Liverpool’s visit to Manchester will no doubt be City’s biggest game of the season so far and the big question to be asked is, will City be able to contain the attacking force of Salah, Firmino, and Mané, especially with skipper Vincent Kompany missing out due to injury?

Kompany took a blow to the knee in Belgium’s game against Gibraltar then later felt a tightness in his calf, and hasn’t been spotted in training since. Guardiola confirmed in his press conference today that the captain isn’t likely to feature against Jürgen Klopp’s side after his 15th calf injury in only five years. Considering his absence, three options are available to replace him if Pep wants to stick to three at the back: Eliaquim Mangala, Fernandinho, or Tosin Adarabioyo. All of these alternatives are risky and appear somewhat sub-par, particularly in a game against a team as fast on the counter as Liverpool. Mangala is of course a natural centre-back, but was deemed surplus to requirements by Guardiola and isn’t very well-suited to City’s possession-based style.

Fernandinho has been preferred as a holding midfielder this season and him shifting to centre-back would require Touré, Delph, or a not entirely fit Gündogan to take up the role of covering the back three. None of these options appear too likely. That only leaves City with Tosin, a defender with virtually no experience in the Premier League. Kompany’s injury outlines why City were so eager to acquire Jonny Evans – one centre-back misses out and the concept of back three either collapses or the missing component is replaced with an inadequate alternative.

Due to this, it is likely that City will return to a back four. Kyle Walker slots back into the team after his suspension, with Stones and Otamendi forming the centre-back pairing. Mendy retains his spot on the left side of the defence whilst Fernandinho, needed for his defensive capabilities in a game such as this, covers the defence in what could be a return to a 4-4-3/4-1-4-1 formation mostly used towards the end of last season.

With the attacking capabilities of Liverpool, I would think that Pep would want to rely on two rather defensive midfielders, Touré and Fernandinho, whilst playing Silva in a playmaker role. This would mean that De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus would have to share the wider positions with Agüero being the main striker. Alternatively, Sané could start instead of Agüero, with Jesus playing centre-forward and Sané and KDB operating from the flanks. Either scenario is possible, but I believe that Pep goes all out and hand out a start to both Jesus and Agüero.

The Team

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